“There were few settlers in this part of the county when I was born on Ten Mile Creek, six miles west of Lancaster, Dec. 29, 1853, though, that was before Lancaster was started,” said Capt. C. C. Parks.
“My father, Curtis Parks, had moved from Elliottsville, Ind., to Texas toward the end of the ’40s; I am not sure whether it was in ’46 or ’48, but whatever the year, he brought his family and belongings in wagons, and, getting hold of 640 acres of land, built him a log house and settled, as I indicated a moment ago, on Ten-Mile Creek.
“The only store in the southern part of the county when father came, was that of M. M. Miller, at Pleasant Run, a mile north of the site afterward selected for Lancaster. Mr. Miller carried no candy, if, indeed, any country merchant did, in those days, but, not to be behind his successors, he gave me a small paper of brown sugar the first time I visited his store, in company with my father, that being before the chemists had learned how to bleach and granulate sugar, and thus to ruin it, as I can testify, for I have tasted nothing since, that at all compared with the peculiar tang and searching sweetness of that same plain brown sugar.
First Store in Dallas County.
“I can not say when Mr. Miller established his store at Pleasant Run, but it has always been my understanding that he was the first man to open a store in Dallas County. Before there were any stores in the country, communities of settlers were in the habit of putting their wagons together and going in parties to Jefferson and Shreveport for their supplies. It was with a view of saving the settlers this trouble that Mr. Miller established his store, and it may be truthfully said, that whether he was the first retailer in the county or not, he was, at all event, the first jobber in this section and in North Texas, for he sold goods in such quantities as to amount to job lots. I am not clear whether there was a postoffice at Pleasant Run, but as it was on the stage line, I am inclined to think there was, and, if so, it was, no doubt, the first postoffice established in the county. However all this may have been, when Lancaster sprang up with two or three stores and a postoffice, Mr. Miller went out of business, and Pleasant Run came to an end.
“During the Civil War, the family sent me to the postoffice at Lancaster about once a week, and thus, I familiarized myself with such features of the village as a small country boy could take in. Paul Henry ran the postoffice in the back part of his general store. Other merchants were Groves & Everts and James Lowerery. Ben Green was the proprietor of a furniture store, and William White was the first man in the country who had money to lend. Dr. Moffett conducted a drug store. But, the most important establishment in the village was Billy Mott’s mill. He ground into flour, the wheat grown within a radius of seventy-five miles, and the finished product was sent by wagon to Houston and Shreveport and Jefferson, those towns being the nearest markets.
Confederate Gun Factory.
“But, as an industrial plant, Mott’s mill took second place during the Civil War. Paul Henry, who had come to the county with the French colonists who settled Reunion, secured a contract to manufacture guns for the Confederacy and established his factory at Lancaster. I know nothing of the details of this, except that he gave employment to what looked to me like a lot of men said Captain Parks.
“Up to the end of the war, there was not a single brick house in Lancaster. The most substantial building was Mott’s mill, a structure of stone, the construction of which was stopped for the period of the war by the Jack of mechanics, but which was resumed at the end of hostilities and completed about 1865.
“My brother, J. J. Parks, built and operated on Ten Mile Creek, one of the first gins in the county and North Texas. In early days, cattle and horses constituted the wealth of the country. Settlers planted small patches of corn and oats for home consumption and a little wheat for exportation, but were slow about growing cotton; on which, there was little profit after they had hauled it several hundred miles to market. But, my brother did a good business. Farmers brought their cotton hundreds of miles to have it ginned. His gin had a capacity of only about three bales a day, and the result, was that he got business enough to keep going the year round. In those days, ginners had trouble getting rid of the cotton seed, which accumulated in heaps around the gins and attracted cattle, which fell ravenously on it. After the ginners had, for years, employed small boys to run the cattle away, only to have them come right back, the tardy bright idea occurred to some dreamer, that, after all, cotton seed might perhaps have a food value. That set the chemists to work.
Interview with Captain C. C. Parks was transcribed by Jim Wheat for his Dallas County Archives collection from the Sept. 19, 1926 edition of the Dallas Morning News. Photo: Lancaster TX 1908 is from G W Cook collection at DeGolyer Library.